All in the <head>

– Ponderings & code by Drew McLellan –

– Live from The Internets since 2003 –


Building a Wall

30 September 2003

I received an email this evening from someone who wasn’t sure whether she should save up the bucks to buy a copy of Dreamweaver or if she should pluck for the very capable and inexpensive HomeSite. I pulled out my old brick wall analogy, and thought it might be fun to share it with you too. It goes like this:

Think of it this way … if you need to build a brick wall, both these programs will enable you do to that. Dreamweaver has a button labelled “Insert Brick Wall”. This inserts a standard wall of a fixed dimension. You can decide where to put it, but you have no say over the same size and shape. If you want to build a wall with HomeSite, you’ll find that it has a mixer and some cement, a plumb line and a trowel, but you have to bring along your own bricks. The upshot is that you can have any shape, size and colour of wall that you’d like, but you have to do the work yourself.

The end product from both is a brick wall. They’ll both keep the wolves out. Sometimes it just comes down to how fussy you are about your walls. I personally use HomeSite for all my development work, but Emperor Hadrian would have used Dreamweaver.

- Drew McLellan


  1. § Woody: Can anyone tell if there is any difference between Homesite (came with DWMX) and Homesite 5.5?
  2. § Josh: Have you used TopStyle? I find it to be an enjoyable tool to code with. It’s my choice editor.

    Note: TopStyle is written by Nick Bradbury who created HomeSite.
  3. § Jemaleddin S. Cole: I dunno - I use Dreamweaver at work and haven’t found anything that it *couldn’t* do. In fact, its template engine can do a whole lot that nothing else can.

    To continue your metaphor, it’s true that Dreamweaver will spit out a generic looking wall - and if you had forgotten the correct way to make a wall, this will serve as a great template. Dreamweaver will let you change each and every aspect of the wall, and offer helpful suggestions all the way.

    Case in point: the other day I had to make a page with two frames on it. Just trust me, I had to. Of course, since frames are evil, I had completely forgotten how they worked. Dreamweaver to the rescue.

    I’d tell your friend that there are evaluation copies of everything out there and that he should download one and try it out.
  4. § Jesse Rodgers: I have never used Homsite - probably because there is no OS X version that I know of and I haven’t looked that hard. It is a toss up between DW MX and BBedit at times. Plus when Homesite was big, I was into GIS... So ArcView was by thing ;)

    With the new CSS rendering I like being able to see my CSS changes without a preview so DW MX2k4 is becoming my tool of choice. Although not perfect rendering, it gives me a really good idea of what the page will look like.

    I just don’t use those panels.. they drive me nuts.
  5. § tomjleeds: I use Dreamweaver. Purely because I’ve always used it, and the text-colouring for the different tags and codes is better in DW than HomeSite 5.5. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use any of the tools in DW, I just prefer the Code Editor to anything else I’ve come across.
  6. § Eric Madsen: Unlike a brick wall, code can easily be changed/sculpted. So I use DW & BBedit together. Throw down a page then start pushing & pulling.
  7. § Jeremy Flint: I have never really used dreamweaver. Others here in the office do, but i have always been a ”code” guy.

    I hated the code editor in DW4 and DW UltraDev. The new MX seems to integrate Homesite as the code editor, but i still crank out code with Homesite 5. For CSS, i use TopStyle Lite.

    I have a dual monitor setup, so i will open homesite on one side, and topstyle on the other and go to town.
  8. § Parthiv Ved: Dreamweaver is the best tool that I have come across. There are so many functionalities that make your work so much faster. All you do is be Creative, and leave the rest to Dreamweaver.

    I am a big time Dreamweaver fan!
  9. § Jeremy Flint: I basically write code because that is how i learned. I started writing HTML using Notepad, and have just grown so accustomed to writing code that i can usually bang out a site faster than most of my co-workers can build it in DW.
  10. § Jemaleddin S. Cole: I used to think just like you Jeremy. Then I realized that it was just that I was faster than my co-workers, so I can bang out a site in Dreamweaver faster than them too. =-)
  11. § Drew: I learned by writing code in Notepad. By the time I was starting to work with large (completely static) sites, I switched to Dreamweaver for speed and ease of use.

    When I started working with CSS a lot and found that DW was leaving me high and dry, I switched back to hand coding in HomeSite. I suddenly found that I really enjoyed my work again - I refound what it was that had really excited me about building for the web in the first place.

    Dreamweaver can have the effect of separating you from the code - and it’s the code that I enjoy working with the most.
  12. § jeremy flint: My thoughts exactly Drew.


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About Drew McLellan

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Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.